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Enriching CHILDES for Morphosyntactic Analysis



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Enriching CHILDES for Morphosyntactic Analysis Brian MacWhinney Carnegie Mellon University 1 Introduction The modern study of child language development owes much to the methodological and conceptual advances introduced by Brown 1973 In his study of the language development of Adam Eve and Sarah Roger Brown focused on a variety of core measurement issues such as acquisition sequence growth curves morpheme inventories productivity analysis grammar formulation and sampling methodology The basic question that Brown was trying to answer was how one could use transcripts of interactions between children and adults to test theoretical claims regarding the child s learning of grammar Like many other child language researchers Brown considered the utterances produced by children to be a remarkably rich data source for testing theoretical claims At the same time Brown realized that one needed to specify a highly systematic methodology for collecting and analyzing these spontaneous productions Language acquisition theory has advanced in many ways since Brown 1973 but we are still dealing with many of the same basic methodological issues he confronted Elaborating on Brown s approach researchers have formulated increasingly reliable methods for measuring the growth of grammar or morphosyntax in the child These new approaches serve to extend Brown s vision into the modern world of computers 1 and computational linguistics New methods for tagging parts of speech and grammatical relations now open up new and more powerful ways of testing hypotheses and models regarding children s language learning The current paper examines a particular approach to morphosyntactic analysis that has been elaborated in the context of the CHILDES Child Language Data Exchange System database Readers unfamiliar with this database and its role in child language acquisition research may find it useful to download and study the materials manuals programs and database that are available for free over the



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